Chaos and carbonara is quite possibly the best combination for a vacation, so it is no surprise that Rome would be a frontrunner for family fun. By its very nature and history, the city is easy for groups — walkable, with culture on every corner and food shops every few steps.
Its infamous chaos — confusing lines, impromptu strikes and vague rules — is an ongoing evolution, which also makes the city completely forgiving and flexible. And Romans love children. They love talking to them, helping you out with them and, most of all, feeding them. Bottom line, “family-friendly” isn’t a question here; it’s a way of life.
We all know Rome is an open-air museum, but culture dictates a “look but don’t touch” policy, especially when that playground happens to be more than 2,000 years old. However, there are parts of the city that definitely can be hands-on.
Tikidoo, a new family-friendly tour start-up, lines up multi-linugal, children-experienced tour guides with kid-centric walking tours of Rome in a series of interactive art activities.
Need to blow off some steam? Sign up for Gladiator School, a combat prep program for children of all ages — yes, adults can even take on their tweens.
At Rome’s favorite park, Villa Borghese, rent bikes, roller blades and pedal cars, go on pony rides, bouncy castles, merry-go-rounds and more.
After dinner, reserve an evening walk through the Roman Forum and the Colosseum’s underground.
There is so much food in Rome and so many options for all kinds of eaters — from carnivorous and carb-counting to gluten- and dairy-free — that all you have to do is inquire. For parents with smaller children, ask the waiter if the restaurant has a mezza porzione (half plate).
And don’t worry if junior likes not-so-flavorful dishes — most restaurants are happy to bring a simple order of pasta in bianco (short or long pasta garnished with butter and parmigiano cheese, or olive oil and parmigiano).
Favorite family spots include Emma (a pizzeria and restaurant); Flavio Al Velavevodetto for a full Roman meal; Antico Forno, a local bakery with pizza by the slice; and Gelateria del Teatro, a delicious ice creamery with lactose-free flavors and an open-plan laboratory.
Tikidoo suggests heading to the Trastevere neighborhood for personal pizza at Pizzeria Ai Marmi or take-away supplì (deep-fried rice balls with mozzarella) at Sisini.
Accommodations are key to enjoying the Eternal City, and even more so with families. Our favorites are three distinctly different properties.
In the heart of the historic center, there is nothing better than the contemporary Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Hotel de Russie, a Rocco Forte Hotel for its pivotal location, white-glove service, private garden and children’s pampering. Its kid-centric Families for Forte program offers customized concierge treatment complete with toys, books, games, passport, city guide, itineraries, cooking lessons, scavenger hunts, toiletries, an in-room bar and turndown.
For the summer months, you’ll need a pool, so we suggest the Parco dei Principi Grand Hotel & Spa, a Baroque-inspired property in Villa Borghese whose fun near the water is worthy of a G-rated Jay Gatsby party.
Another winner for the group is the Four-Star Gran Meliá Rome Villa Agrippina, an urban oasis on the edge of the city’s Trastevere and Vatican neighborhoods.
Rome is crazy, chaotic and cumbersome. With narrow sidewalks and bumpy cobblestones, it’s best to leave fancy ATV prams at home and, instead, bring portable umbrella strollers and baby backpacks.